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Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald

Part 6 out of 10

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trees opposite ready to be torn to pieces by the wind, and the
valley beneath covered with stormy water. The tumult was so loud,
that she did not hear a gentle knock at her door: as she turned
away, weary of everything, she saw it softly open -- and there to her
astonishment stood Gibbie -- come, she imagined, to seek shelter,
because their cottage had been blown down. -- Calculating the position
of her room from what he knew of its windows, he had, with the
experienced judgment of a mountaineer, gone to it almost direct.

"You mustn't come here, Gibbie," she said, advancing. "Go down to
the kitchen, to Mistress Mac Farlane. She will see to what you

Gibbie made eager signs to her to go with him. She concluded that
he wanted her to accompany him to the kitchen and speak for him; but
knowing that would only enrage her keeper with them both, she shook
her head, and went back to the window. She thought, as she
approached it, there seemed a lull in the storm, but the moment she
looked out, she gave a cry of astonishment, and stood staring.
Gibbie had followed her as softly as swiftly, and looking out also,
saw good cause indeed for her astonishment: the channel of the
raging burn was all but dry! Instantly he understood what it meant.
In his impotence to persuade, he caught the girl in his arms, and
rushed with her from the room. She had faith enough in him by this
time not to struggle or scream. He shot down the stair with her,
and out of the front door. Her weight was nothing to his excited
strength. The moment they issued, and she saw the Glashburn raving
along through the lawn, with little more than the breadth of the
drive between it and the house, she saw the necessity of escape,
though she did not perceive half the dire necessity for haste.
Every few moments, a great gush would dash out twelve or fifteen
yards over the gravel and sink again, carrying many feet of the bank
with it, and widening by so much the raging channel.

"Put me down, Gibbie," she said; "I will run as fast as you like."

He obeyed at once.

"Oh!" she cried, "Mistress Mac Farlane! -- I wonder if she knows. Run
and knock at the kitchen window."

Gibbie darted off, gave three loud hurried taps on the window, came
flying back, took Ginevra's hand in his, drew her on till she was at
her full speed, turned sharp to the left round the corner of the
house, and shot down to the empty channel of the burn. As they
crossed it, even to the inexperienced eyes of the girl it was plain
what had caused the phenomenon. A short distance up the stream, the
whole facing of its lofty right bank had slipped down into its
channel. Not a tree, not a shrub, not a bed of moss was to be seen;
all was bare wet rock. A confused heap of mould, with branches and
roots sticking out of it in all directions, lay at its foot, closing
the view upward. The other side of the heap was beaten by the
raging burn. They could hear, though they could not see it. Any
moment the barrier might give way, and the water resume its course.
They made haste, therefore, to climb the opposite bank. In places
it was very steep, and the soil slipped so that often it seemed on
its way with them to the bottom, while the wind threatened to uproot
the trees to which they clung, and carry them off through the air.
It was with a fierce scramble they gained the top. Then the sight
was a grand one. The arrested water swirled and beat and foamed
against the landslip, then rushed to the left, through the wood,
over bushes and stones, a ragging river, the wind tearing off the
tops of its waves, to the Glashburn, into which it plunged, swelling
yet higher its huge volume. Rapidly it cut for itself a new
channel. Every moment a tree fell and shot with it like a rocket.
Looking up its course, they saw it come down the hillside a white
streak, and burst into boiling brown and roar at their feet. The
wind nearly swept them from their place; but they clung to the great
stones, and saw the airy torrent, as if emulating that below it,
fill itself with branches and leaves and lumps of foam. Then first
Ginevra became fully aware of the danger in which the house was, and
from which Gibbie had rescued her. Augmented in volume and rapidity
by the junction of its neighbour, the Glashburn was now within a
yard -- so it seemed from that height at least -- of the door. But they
must not linger. The nearest accessible shelter was the cottage,
and Gibbie knew it would need all Ginevra's strength to reach it.
Again he took her by the hand.

"But where's Mistress Mac Farlane?" she said. "Oh, Gibbie! we
mustn't leave her."

He replied by pointing down to the bed of the stream: there were she
and Angus crossing. Ginevra, was satisfied when she saw the
gamekeeper with her, and they set out, as fast as they could go,
ascending the mountain, Gibbie eager to have her in warmth and
safety before it was dark.

Both burns were now between them and the cottage, which greatly
added to their difficulties. The smaller burn came from the tarn,
and round that they must go, else Ginevra would never get to the
other side of it; and then there was the Glashburn to cross. It was
an undertaking hard for any girl, especially such for one
unaccustomed to exertion; and what made it far worse was that she
had only house-shoes, which were continually coming off as she
climbed. But the excitement of battling with the storm, the joy of
adventure, and the pleasure of feeling her own strength, sustained
her well for a long time; and in such wind and rain, the absence of
bonnet and cloak was an advantage, so long as exertion kept her
warm. Gibbie did his best to tie her shoes on with strips of her
pocket handkerchief; but when at last they were of no more use, he
pulled off his corduroy jacket, tore out the sleeves, and with
strips from the back tied them about her feet and ankles. Her hair
also was a trouble: it would keep blowing in her eyes, and in
Gibbie's too, and that sometimes with quite a sharp lash. But she
never lost her courage, and Gibbie, though he could not hearten her
with words, was so ready with smile and laugh, was so cheerful -- even
merry, so fearless, so free from doubt and anxiety, while doing
everything he could think of to lessen her toil and pain, that she
hardly felt in his silence any lack; while often, to rest her body,
and withdraw her mind from her sufferings, he made her stop and look
back on the strange scene behind them. It was getting dark when
they reached the only spot where he judged it possible to cross the
Glashburn. He carried her over, and then it was all down-hill to
the cottage. Once inside it, Ginevra threw herself into Robert's
chair, and laughed, and cried, and laughed again. Gibbie blew up
the peats, made a good fire, and put on water to boil; then opened
Janet's drawers, and having signified to his companion to take what
she could find, went to the cow house, threw himself on a heap of
wet straw, worn out, and had enough to do to keep himself from
falling asleep. A little rested, he rose and re-entered the
cottage, when a merry laugh from both of them went ringing out into
the storm: the little lady was dressed in Janet's workday garments,
and making porridge. She looked very funny. Gibbie found plenty of
milk in the dairy under the rock, and they ate their supper together
in gladness. Then Gibbie prepared the bed in the little closet for
his guest and she slept as if she had not slept for a week.

Gibbie woke with the first of the dawn. The rain still
fell -- descending in spoonfuls rather than drops; the wind kept
shaping itself into long hopeless howls, rising to shrill yells that
went drifting away over the land; and then the howling rose again.
Nature seemed in despair. There must be more for Gibbie to do! He
must go again to the foot of the mountain, and see if there was
anybody to help. They might even be in trouble at the Mains, who
could tell!

Ginevra woke, rose, made herself as tidy as she could, and left her
closet. Gibbie was not in the cottage. She blew up the fire, and,
finding the pot ready beside it, with clean water, set it on to
boil. Gibbie did not come. The water boiled. She took it off, but
being hungry, put it on again. Several times she took it off and
put it on again. Gibbie never came. She made herself some porridge
at last. Everything necessary was upon the table, and as she poured
it into the wooden dish for the purpose, she took notice of a slate
beside it, with something written upon it. The words were, "I will
cum back as soon as I cann."

She was alone, then! It was dreadful; but she was too hungry to
think about it. She ate her porridge, and then began to cry. It
was very unkind of Gibbie to leave her, she said to herself, But
then he was a sort of angel, and doubtless had to go and help
somebody else. There was a little pile of books on the table, which
he must have left for her. She began examining them, and soon found
something to interest her, so that an hour or two passed quickly.
But Gibbie did not return, and the day went wearily. She cried now
and then, made great efforts to be patient, succeeded pretty well
for a while, and cried again. She read and grew tired a dozen
times; ate cakes and milk, cried afresh, and ate again. Still
Gibbie did not come. Before the day was over, she had had a good
lesson in praying. For here she was, one who had never yet acted on
her own responsibility, alone on a bare mountain-side, in the heart
of a storm which seemed as if it would never cease, and not a
creature knew where she was but the dumb boy, and he had left her!
If he should never come back, what would become of her? She could
not find her way down the mountain; and if she could, where was she
to go, with all Daurside under water? She would soon have eaten up
all the food in the cottage, and the storm might go on for ever, who
could tell? Or who could tell whether, when it was over, and she
got down to the valley below, she should not find it a lifeless
desert, everybody drowned, and herself the only person left alive in
the world?

Then the noises were terrible. She seemed to inhabit noise.
Through the general roar of wind and water and rain every now then
came a sharper sound, like a report or crack, followed by a strange
low thunder, as it seemed. They were the noises of stones carried
down by the streams, grinding against each other, and dashed stone
against stone; and of rocks falling and rolling, and bounding
against their fast-rooted neighbours. When it began to grow dark,
her misery seemed more than she could bear; but then, happily, she
grew sleepy, and slept the darkness away.

With the new light came new promise and fresh hope. What should we
poor humans do without our God's nights and mornings? Our ills are
all easier to help than we know -- except the one ill of a central
self, which God himself finds it hard to help. -- It no longer rained
so fiercely; the wind had fallen; and the streams did not run so
furious a race down the sides of the mountain. She ran to the burn,
got some water to wash herself -- she could not spare the clear water,
of which there was some still left in Janet's pails -- and put on her
own clothes, which were now quite dry. Then she got herself some
breakfast, and after that tried to say her prayers, but found it
very difficult, for, do what she might to model her slippery
thoughts, she could not help, as often as she turned herself towards
him, seeing God like her father, the laird.



Gibbie sped down the hill through a worse rain than ever. The
morning was close, and the vapours that filled it were like smoke
burned to the hue of the flames whence it issued. Many a man that
morning believed another great deluge begun, and all measures
relating to things of this world lost labour. Going down his own
side of the Glashburn, the nearest path to the valley, the
gamekeeper's cottage was the first dwelling on his way. It stood a
little distance from the bank of the burn, opposite the bridge and
gate, while such things were.

It had been with great difficulty, for even Angus did not know the
mountain so well as Gibbie, that the gamekeeper reached it with the
housekeeper the night before. It was within two gunshots of the
house of Glashruach, yet to get to it they had to walk miles up and
down Glashgar. A mountain in storm is as hard to cross as a sea.
Arrived, they did not therefore feel safe. The tendency of the
Glashburn was indeed away from the cottage, as the grounds of
Glashruach sadly witnessed; but a torrent is double-edged, and who
could tell? The yielding of one stone in its channel might send it
to them. All night Angus watched, peering out ever again into the
darkness, but seeing nothing save three lights that burned above the
water -- one of them, he thought, at the Mains. The other two went
out in the darkness, but that only in the dawn. When the morning
came, there was the Glashburn meeting the Lorrie in his garden. But
the cottage was well built, and fit to stand a good siege, while any
moment the waters might have reached their height. By breakfast
time, however, they were round it from behind. There is nothing
like a flood for revealing the variations of surface, the dips and
swells of a country. In a few minutes they were isolated, with the
current of the Glashburn on one side, and that of the Lorrie in
front. When he saw the water come in at front and back doors at
once, Angus ordered his family up the stair: the cottage had a large
attic, with dormer windows, where they slept. He himself remained
below for some time longer, in that end of the house where he kept
his guns and fishing-tackle; there he sat on a table, preparing nets
for the fish that would be left in the pools; and not until he found
himself afloat did he take his work to the attic.

There the room was hot, and they had the window open. Mistress Mac
Pholp stood at it, looking out on the awful prospect, with her
youngest child, a sickly boy, in her arms. He had in his a little
terrier-pup, greatly valued of the gamekeeper. In a sudden outbreak
of peevish wilfulness, he threw the creature out of the window. It
fell on the slooping roof, and before it could recover itself, being
too young to have the full command of four legs, rolled off.

"Eh! the doggie's i' the watter!" cried Mistress Mac Pholp in

Angus threw down everything with an ugly oath, for he had given
strict orders not one of the children should handle the whelp,
jumped up, and got out on the roof. From there he might have
managed to reach it, so high now was the water, had the little thing
remained where it fell, but already it had swam a yard or two from
the house. Angus, who was a fair swimmer and an angry man, threw
off his coat, and plunged after it, greatly to the delight of the
little one, caught the pup with his teeth by the back of the neck,
and turned to make for the house. Just then a shrub, swept from the
hill, caught him in the face, and so bewildered him, that, before he
got rid of it, he had blundered into the edge of the current, which
seized and bore him rapidly away. He dropped the pup, and struck
out for home with all his strength. But he soon found the most he
could do was to keep his head above water, and gave himself up for
lost. His wife screamed in agony. Gibbie heard her as he came down
the hill, and ran at full speed towards the cottage.

About a hundred yards from the house, the current bore Angus
straight into a large elder tree. He got into the middle of it, and
there remained trembling, the weak branches breaking with every
motion he made, while the stream worked at the roots, and the wind
laid hold of him with fierce leverage. In terror, seeming still to
sink as he sat, he watched the trees dart by like battering-rams in
the swiftest of the current: the least of them diverging would tear
the elder tree with it. Brave enough in dealing with poachers,
Angus was not the man to gaze with composure in the face of a sure
slow death, against which no assault could be made. Many a man is
courageous because he has not conscience enough to make a coward of
him, but Angus had not quite reached that condition, and from the
branches of the elder tree showed a pale, terror-stricken visage.
Amidst the many objects on the face of the water, Gibbie, however,
did not distinguish it, and plunging in swam round to the front of
the cottage to learn what was the matter. There the wife's
gesticulations directed his eyes to her drowning husband.

But what was he to do? He could swim to the tree well enough, and,
he thought, back again, but how was that to be made of service to
Angus? He could not save him by main force -- there was not enough of
that between them. If he had a line, and there must be plenty of
lines in the cottage, he would carry him the end of it to haul
upon -- that would do. If he could send it to him that would be
better still, for then he could help at the other end, and would be
in the right position, up stream, to help farther, if necessary, for
down the current alone was the path of communication open. He
caught hold of the eaves, and scrambled on to the roof. But in the
folly and faithlessness of her despair, the woman would not let him
enter. With a curse caught from her husband, she struck him from
the window, crying,

"Ye s' no come in here, an' my man droonin' yon'er! Gang till 'im,
ye cooard!"

Never had poor Gibbie so much missed the use of speech. On the
slope of the roof he could do little to force an entrance, therefore
threw himself off it to seek another, and betook himself to the
windows below. Through that of Angus's room, he caught sight of a
floating anker cask. It was the very thing! -- and there on the walls
hung a quantity of nets and cordage! But how to get in? It was a
sash-window, and of course swollen with the wet, therefore not to be
opened; and there was not a square in it large enough to let him
through. He swam to the other side, and crept softly on to the
roof, and over the ridge. But a broken slate betrayed him. The
woman saw him, rushed to the fire-place, caught up the poker, and
darted back to defend the window.

"Ye s' no come in here, I tell ye," she screeched, "an' my man
stickin' i' yon boortree buss!"

Gibbie advanced. She made a blow at him with the poker. He caught
it, wrenched it from her grasp, and threw himself from the roof.
The next moment they heard the poker at work, smashing the window.

"He'll be in an' murder's a'!" cried the mother, and ran to the
stair, while the children screamed and danced with terror.

But the water was far too deep for her, She returned to the attic,
barricaded the door, and went again to the window to watch her
drowning husband.

Gibbie was inside in a moment, and seizing the cask, proceeded to
attach to it a strong line. He broke a bit from a fishing-rod,
secured the line round the middle of it with a notch, put the stick
through the bunghole in the bilge, and corked up the hole with a
net-float. Happily he had a knife in his pocket. He then joined
strong lines together until he thought he had length enough, secured
the last end to a bar of the grate, and knocked out both sashes of
the window with an axe. A passage thus cleared, he floated out
first a chair, then a creepie, and one thing after another, to learn
from what point to start the barrel. Seeing and recognizing them
from above, Mistress Mac Pholp raised a terrible outcry. In the
very presence of her drowning husband, such a wanton dissipation of
her property roused her to fiercest wrath, for she imagined Gibbie
was emptying her house with leisurely revenge. Satisfied at length,
he floated out his barrel, and followed with the line in his hand,
to aid its direction if necessary. It struck the tree. With a yell
of joy Angus laid hold of it, and hauling the line taut, and feeling
it secure, committed himself at once to the water, holding by the
barrel, and swimming with his legs, while Gibbie, away to the side
with a hold of the rope, was swimming his hardest to draw him out of
the current. But a weary man was Angus, when at length he reached
the house. It was all he could do to get himself in at the window,
and crawl up the stair. At the top of it he fell benumbed on the

By the time that, repentant and grateful, Mistress Mac Pholp
bethought herself of Gibbie, not a trace of him was to be seen; and
Angus, contemplating his present experience in connection with that
of Robert Grant's cottage, came to the conclusion that he must be an
emissary of Satan who on two such occasions had so unexpectedly
rescued him. Perhaps the idea was not quite so illogical as it must
seem; for how should such a man imagine any other sort of messenger
taking an interest in his life? He was confirmed in the notion when
he found that a yard of the line remained attached to the grate, but
the rest of it with the anker was gone -- fit bark for the angel he
imagined Gibbie, to ride the stormy waters withal. While they
looked for him in the water and on the land, Gibbie was again in the
room below, carrying out a fresh thought. With the help of the
table, he emptied the cask, into which a good deal of water had got.
Then he took out the stick, corked the bunghole tight, laced the
cask up in a piece of net, attached the line to the net, and wound
it about the cask by rolling the latter round and round, took the
cask between his hands, and pushed from the window straight into the
current of the Glashburn. In a moment it had swept him to the
Lorrie. By the greater rapidity of the former he got easily across
the heavier current of the latter, and was presently in water
comparatively still, swimming quietly towards the Mains, and
enjoying his trip none the less that he had to keep a sharp
look-out: if he should have to dive, to avoid any drifting object,
he might lose his barrel. Quickly now, had he been so minded, he
could have returned to the city -- changing vessel for vessel, as one
after another went to pieces. Many a house-roof offered itself for
the voyage; now and then a great water-wheel, horizontal and
helpless, devoured of its element. Once he saw a cradle come
gyrating along, and, urging all his might, intercepted it, but
hardly knew whether he was more sorry or relieved to find it empty.
When he was about half-way to the Mains, a whole fleet of ricks
bore down upon him. He boarded one, and scrambled to the top of it,
keeping fast hold of the end of his line, which unrolled from the
barrel as he ascended. From its peak he surveyed the wild scene.
All was running water. Not a human being was visible, and but a
few house-roofs, of which for a moment it was hard to say whether or
not they were of those that were afloat. Here and there were the
tops of trees, showing like low bushes. Nothing was uplifted except
the mountains. He drew near the Mains. All the ricks in the yard
were bobbing about, as if amusing themselves with a slow
contradance; but they were as yet kept in by the barn, and a huge
old hedge of hawthorn. What was that cry from far away? Surely it
was that of a horse in danger! It brought a lusty equine response
from the farm. Where could horses be with such a depth of water
about the place? Then began a great lowing of cattle. But again
came the cry of the horse from afar, and Gibbie, this time
recognizing the voice as Snowball's, forgot the rest. He stood up
on the very top of the rick and sent his keen glance round on all
sides. The cry came again and again, so that he was satisfied in
what direction he must look. The rain had abated a little, but the
air was so thick with vapour that he could not tell whether it was
really an object he seemed to see white against the brown water, far
away to the left, or a fancy of his excited hope: it might be
Snowball on the turn-pike road, which thereabout ran along the top
of a high embankment. He tumbled from the rick, rolled the line
about the barrel, and pushed vigorously for what might be the horse.

It took him a weary hour -- in so many currents was he caught, one
after the other, all straining to carry him far below the object he
wanted to reach: an object it plainly was before he had got half-way
across, and by and by as plainly it was Snowball -- testified to ears
and eyes together. When at length he scrambled on the embankment
beside him, the poor, shivering, perishing creature gave a low neigh
of delight: he did not know Gibbie, but he was a human being. He
was quite cowed and submissive, and Gibbie at once set about his
rescue. He had reasoned as he came along that, if there were beasts
at the Mains, there must be room for Snowball, and thither he would
endeavour to take him. He tied the end of the line to the remnant
of the halter on his head, the other end being still fast to the
barrel, and took to the water again. Encouraged by the power upon
his head, the pressure, namely, of the halter, the horse followed,
and they made for the Mains. It was a long journey, and Gibbie had
not breath enough to sing to Snowball, but he made what noise he
could, and they got slowly along. He found the difficulties far
greater now that he had to look out for the horse as well as for
himself. None but one much used to the water could have succeeded
in the attempt, or could indeed have stood out against its weakening
influence and the strain of the continued exertion together so long.
At length his barrel got water-logged, and he sent it adrift.



Mistress Croale was not, after all, the last who arrived at the
Mains. But that the next arrival was accounted for, scarcely
rendered it less marvellous than hers. -- Just after the loss of
Snowball, came floating into the farmyard, over the top of the gate,
with such astonishment of all who beheld that each seemed to place
more confidence in his neighbour's eyes than in his own, a woman on
a raft, with her four little children seated around her, holding the
skirt of her gown above her head and out between her hands for a
sail. She had made the raft herself, by tying some bars of a paling
together, and crossing them with what other bits of wood she could
find -- a brander she called it, which is Scotch for a gridiron, and
thence for a grating. Nobody knew her. She had come down the
Lorrie. The farmer was so struck with admiration of her invention,
daring, and success, that he vowed he would keep the brander as long
as it would stick together; and as it could not be taken into the
house, he secured it with a rope to one of the windows.

When they had the horses safe on the first floor, they brought the
cattle into the lower rooms; but it became evident that if they were
to have a chance, they also must be got up to the same level.
Thereupon followed a greater tumult than before -- such a banging of
heads and hind quarters, of horns and shoulders, against walls and
partitions, such a rushing and thundering, that the house seemed in
more danger from within than from without; for the cattle were worse
to manage than the horses, and one moment stubborn as a milestone,
would the next moment start into a frantic rush. One poor wretch
broke both her horns clean off against the wall, at a sharp turn of
the passage; and after two or three more accidents, partly caused by
over-haste in the human mortals, Donal begged that the business
should be left to him and his mother. His master consented, and it
was wonderful what Janet contrived to effect by gentleness, coaxing,
and suggestion. When Hornie's turn came, Donal began to tie ropes
to her hind hoofs. Mr. Duff objected.

"Ye dinna ken her sae weel as I dee, sir," answered Donal. "She wad
caw her horns intil a man-o-war 'at angert her. An' up yon'er ye
cudna get a whack at her, for hurtin' ane 'at didna deserve 't. I
s' dee her no mischeef, I s' warran'. Ye jist lea' her to me, sir."

His master yielded. Donal tied a piece of rope round each hind
pastern -- if cows have pasterns -- and made a loop at the end. The
moment she was at the top of the stair, he and his mother dropped
each a loop over a horn.

"Noo, she'll naither stick nor fling (gore nor kick)," said Donal:
she could but bellow, and paw with her fore-feet.

The strangers were mostly in Fergus's bedroom; the horses were all
in their owner's; and the cattle were in the remaining rooms.
Bursts of talk amongst the women were followed by fits of silence:
who could tell how long the flood might last! -- or indeed whether the
house might not be undermined before morning, or be struck by one of
those big things of which so many floated by, and give way with one
terrible crash! Mr. Duff, while preserving a tolerably calm
exterior, was nearly at his wits' end. He would stand for half an
hour together, with his hands in his pockets, looking motionless out
of a window, murmuring now and then to himself, "This is clean
ridic'lous!" But when anything had to be done he was active enough.
Mistress Croale sat in a corner, very quiet, and looking not a
little cowed. There was altogether more water than she liked. Now
and then she lifted her lurid black eyes to Janet, who stood at one
of the windows, knitting away at her master's stocking, and casting
many a calm glance at the brown waters and the strange drift that
covered them; but if Janet turned her head and made a remark to her,
she never gave back other than curt if not rude reply. In the
afternoon Jean brought the whisky bottle. At sight of it, Mistress
Croale's eyes shot flame. Jean poured out a glassful, took a sip,
and offered it to Janet. Janet declining it, Jean, invaded possibly
by some pity of her miserable aspect, offered it to Mistress Croale.
She took it with affected coolness, tossed it off at a gulp, and
presented the glass -- not to the hand from which she had taken it,
but to Jean's other hand, in which was the bottle. Jean cast a
piercing look into her greedy eyes, and taking the glass from her,
filled it, and presented it to the woman who had built and navigated
the brander. Mistress Croale muttered something that sounded like a
curse upon scrimp measure, and drew herself farther back into the
corner, where she had seated herself on Fergus's portmanteau.

"I doobt we hae an Ahchan i' the camp -- a Jonah intil the ship!" said
Jean to Janet, as she turned, bottle and glass in her hands, to
carry them from the room.

"Na, na; naither sae guid nor sae ill," replied Janet. "Fowk 'at's
been ill-guidit, no kennin' whaur their help lies, whiles taks to
the boatle. But this is but a day o' punishment, no a day o'
judgment yet, an' I'm thinkin' the warst's near han' ower. -- Gien
only Gibbie war here!"

Jean left the room, shaking her head, and Janet stood alone at the
window as before. A hand was laid on her arm. She looked up. The
black eyes were close to hers, and the glow that was in them gave
the lie to the tone of indifference with which Mistress Croale

"Ye hae mair nor ance made mention o' ane conneckit wi' ye, by the
name o' Gibbie," she said.

"Ay," answered Janet, sending for the serpent to aid the dove; "an'
what may be yer wull wi' him?"

"Ow, naething," returned Mistress Croale. "I kenned ane o' the name
lang syne 'at was lost sicht o'."

"There's Gibbies here an' Gibbies there," remarked Janet, probing

"Weel I wat!" she answered peevishly, for she had had whisky enough
only to make her cross, and turned away, muttering however in an
undertone, but not too low for Janet to hear, "but there's nae mony
wee Sir Gibbies, or the warl' wadna be sae dooms like hell."

Janet was arrested in her turn: could the fierce, repellent,
whisky-craving woman be the mother of her gracious Gibbie? Could
she be, and look so lost? But the loss of him had lost her perhaps.
Anyhow God was his Father, whoever was the mother of him.

"Hoo cam ye to tyne yer bairn, wuman?" she asked.

But Mistress Croale was careful also, and had her reasons.

"He ran frae the bluidy han'," she said enigmatically.

Janet recalled how Gibbie came to her, scored by the hand of
cruelty. Were there always innocents in the world, who in their own
persons, by the will of God, unknown to themselves, carried on the
work of Christ, filling up that which was left behind of the
sufferings of their Master -- women, children, infants,
idiots -- creatures of sufferance, with souls open to the world to
receive wrong, that it might pass and cease? little furnaces they,
of the consuming fire, to swallow up and destroy by uncomplaining
endurance -- the divine destruction!

"Hoo cam he by the bonnie nickname?" she asked at length.

"Nickname!" retorted Mistress Croale fiercely; "I think I hear ye!
His ain name an' teetle by law an' richt, as sure's ever there was
a King Jeames 'at first pat his han' to the makin' o' baronets! -- as
it's aften I hae h'ard Sir George, the father o' 'im, tell the

She ceased abruptly, annoyed with herself, as it seemed, for having
said so much.

"Ye wadna be my lady yersel', wad ye, mem?" suggested Janet in her
gentlest voice.

Mistress Croale made her no answer. Perhaps she thought of the days
when she alone of women did the simplest of woman's offices for Sir
George. Anyhow, it was one thing to rush of herself to the verge of
her secret, and quite another to be fooled over it.

"Is't lang sin' ye lost him?" asked Janet, after a bootless pause.

"Ay," she answered, gruffly and discourteously, in a tone intended
to quench interrogation.

But Janet persisted.

"Wad ye ken 'im again gien ye saw 'im?"

"Ken 'im? I wad ken 'im gien he had grown a gran'father. Ken 'im,
quo' she! Wha ever kenned 'im as I did, bairn 'at he was, an' wadna
ken 'im gien he war deid an' an angel made o' 'im! -- But weel I wat,
it's little differ that wad mak!"

She rose in her excitement, and going to the other window, stood
gazing vacantly out upon the rushing sea. To Janet it was plain she
knew more about Gibbie than she was inclined to tell, and it gave
her a momentary sting of apprehension.

"What was aboot him ye wad ken sae weel?" she asked in a tone of
indifference, as if speaking only through the meshes of her work.

"I'll ken them 'at speirs afore I tell," she replied sullenly. -- But
the next instant she screamed aloud, "Lord God Almichty! yon's him!
yon's himsel'!" and, stretching out her arms, dashed a hand through
a pane, letting in an eddying swirl of wind and water, while the
blood streamed unheeded from her wrist.

The same moment Jean entered the room. She heard both the cry and
the sound of the breaking glass.

"Care what set the beggar-wife!" she exclaimed. "Gang frae the
window, ye randy."

Mistress Croale took no heed. She stood now staring from the window
still as a statue except for the panting motion of her sides. At
the other window stood Janet, gazing also, with blessed face. For
there, like a triton on a sea-horse, came Gibbie through the water
on Snowball, swimming wearily.

He caught sight of Janet at the window, and straightway his
countenance was radiant with smiles. Mistress Croale gave a
shuddering sigh, drew back from her window, and betook herself again
to her dark corner. Jean went to Janet's window, and there beheld
the triumphal approach of her brownie, saving from the waters the
lost and lamented Snowball. She shouted to her brother.

"John! John! here's yer Snawba'; here's yer Snawba'."

John ran to her call, and, beside himself with joy when he saw his
favourite come swimming along, threw the window wide, and began to
bawl the most unnecessary directions and encouragements, as if the
exploit had been brought thus far towards a happy issue solely
through him, while from all the windows Gibbie was welcomed with
shouts and cheers and congratulations.

"Lord preserve 's!" cried Mr. Duff, recognizing the rider at last,
"it's Rob Grant's innocent! Wha wad hae thoucht it?"

"The Lord's babes an' sucklin's are gey cawpable whiles," remarked
Janet to herself. -- She believed Gibbie had more faculty than any of
her own, Donal included, nor did she share the prevalent prejudice
of the city that heart and brains are mutually antagonistic; for in
her own case she had found that her brains were never worth much to
her until her heart took up the education of them. But the
intellect is, so much oftener than by love, seen and felt to be
sharpened by necessity and greed, that it is not surprising such a
prejudice should exist.

"Tak 'im roon' to the door." -- "Whaur got ye 'im?" -- "Ye wad best get
'im in at the window upo' the stair." -- "He'll be maist
hungert." -- "Ye'll be some weet, I'm thinkin'!" -- "Come awa' up the
stair, an' tell's a' aboot it." -- A score of such conflicting shouts
assailed Gibbie as he approached, and he replied to them all with
the light of his countenance.

When they arrived at the door, they found a difficulty waiting them:
the water was now so high that Snowball's head rose above the
lintel; and, though all animals can swim, they do not all know how
to dive. A tumult of suggestions immediately broke out. But Donal
had already thrown himself from a window with a rope, and swum to
Gibbie's assistance; the two understood each other, and heeding
nothing the rest were saying, held their own communications. In a
minute the rope was fastened round Snow-ball's body, and the end of
it drawn between his fore-legs and through the ring of his
head-stall, when Donal swam with it to his mother who stood on the
stair, with the request that, as soon as she saw Snowball's head
under the water, she would pull with all her might, and draw him in
at the door. Donal then swam back, and threw his arms round
Snowball's neck from below, while the same moment Gibbie cast his
whole weight of it from above: the horse was over head and ears in
an instant, and through the door in another. With snorting nostrils
and blazing eyes his head rose in the passage, and in terror he
struck out for the stair. As he scrambled heavily up from the
water, his master and Robert seized him, and with much petting and
patting and gentling, though there was little enough difficulty in
managing him now, conducted him into the bedroom to the rest of the
horses. There he was welcomed by his companions, and immediately
began devouring the hay upon his master's bedstead. Gibbie came
close behind him, was seized by Janet at the top of the stair,
embraced like one come alive from the grave, and led, all dripping
as he was, into the room where the women were. The farmer followed
soon after with the whisky, the universal medicine in those parts,
of which he offered a glass to Gibbie, but the innocent turned from
it with a curious look of mingled disgust and gratefulness: his
father's life had not been all a failure; he had done what parents
so rarely effect -- handed the general results of his experience to
his son. The sight and smell of whisky were to Gibbie a loathing
flavoured with horror.

The farmer looked back from the door as he was leaving the room:
Gibbie was performing a wild circular dance of which Janet was the
centre, throwing his limbs about like the toy the children call a
jumping Jack, which ended suddenly in a motionless ecstasy upon one
leg. Having regarded for a moment the rescuer of Snowball with
astonishment, John Duff turned away with the reflection, how easy it
was and natural for those who had nothing, and therefore could lose
nothing, to make merry in others' adversity. It did not once occur
to him that it was the joy of having saved that caused Gibbie's
merriment thus to overflow.

"The cratur's a born idiot!" he said afterwards to Jean; "an' it's
jist a mervel what he's cawpable o'! -- But, 'deed, there's little to
cheese atween Janet an' him! They're baith tarred wi' the same
stick." He paused a moment, then added, "They'll dee weel eneuch i'
the ither warl', I doobtna, whaur naebody has to haud aff o'

That day, however, Gibbie had proved that a man may well afford both
to have nothing, and to take no care of himself, seeing he had,
since he rose in the morning, rescued a friend, a foe, and a beast
of the earth. Verily, he might stand on one leg!

But when he told Janet that he had been home, and had found the
cottage uninjured and out of danger, she grew very sober in the
midst of her gladness. She could say nothing there amongst
strangers, but the dread arose in her bosom that, if indeed she had
not like Peter denied her Master before men, she had like Peter
yielded homage to the might of the elements in his ruling presence;
and she justly saw the same faithlessness in the two failures.

"Eh!" she said to herself, "gien only I had been prayin' i'stead o'
rinnin' awa', I wad hae been there whan he turnt the watter aside!
I wad hae seen the mirricle! O my Maister! what think ye o' me

For all the excitement Mistress Croale had shown at first view of
Gibbie, she sat still in her dusky corner, made no movement towards
him, nor did anything to attract his attention, only kept her eyes
fixed upon him; and Janet in her mingled joy and pain forgot her
altogether. When at length it recurred to her that she was in the
room, she cast a somewhat anxious glance towards the place she had
occupied all day. It was empty; and Janet was perplexed to think
how she had gone unseen. She had crept out after Mr. Duff, and
probably Janet saw her, but as one of those who seeing see not, and
immediately forget.

Just as the farmer left the room, a great noise arose among the
cattle in that adjoining; he set down the bottle on a chair that
happened to be in the passage, and ran to protect the partitions.
Exultation would be a poor word wherewith to represent the madness
of the delight that shot its fires into Mistress Croale's eyes when
she saw the bottle actually abandoned within her reach. It was to
her as the very key of the universe. She darted upon it, put it to
her lips, and drank. Yet she took heed, thought while she drank,
and did not go beyond what she could carry. Little time such an
appropriation required. Noiselessly she set the bottle down, darted
into a closet containing a solitary calf, and there stood looking
from the open window in right innocent fashion, curiously
contemplating the raft attached to it, upon which she had seen the
highland woman arrive with her children.

At supper-time she was missing altogether. Nobody could with
certainty say when he had last seen her. The house was searched
from top to bottom, and the conclusion arrived at was, that she must
have fallen from some window and been drowned -- only, surely she
would at least have uttered one cry! Examining certain of the
windows to know whether she might not have left some sign of such an
exit, the farmer discovered that the brander was gone.

"Losh!" cried the orra man, with a face bewildered to shapelessness,
like that of an old moon rising in a fog, "yon'll be her I saw an
hoor ago, hyne doon the water!"

"Ye muckle gowk!" said his master, "hoo cud she win sae far ohn gane
to the boddom?"

"Upo' the bran'er, sir," answered the orra man. "I tuik her for a
muckle dog upon a door. The wife maun be a witch!"

John Duff stared at the man with his mouth open, and for half a
minute all were dumb. The thing was incredible, yet hardly to be
controverted. The woman was gone, the raft was gone, and something
strange that might be the two together had been observed about the
time, as near as they could judge, when she ceased to be observed in
the house. Had the farmer noted the change in the level of the
whisky in his bottle, he might have been surer of it -- except indeed
the doubt had then arisen whether they might not rather find her at
the foot of the stair when the water subsided.

Mr. Duff said the luck changed with the return of Snowball; his
sister said, with the departure of the beggar-wife. Before dark the
rain had ceased, and it became evident that the water had not risen
for the last half-hour. In two hours more it had sunk a quarter of
an inch.

Gibbie threw himself on the floor beside his mother's chair, she
covered him with her grey cloak, and he fell fast asleep. At dawn,
he woke with a start. He had dreamed that Ginevra was in trouble.
He made Janet understand that he would return to guide them home as
soon as the way was practicable, and set out at once.

The water fell rapidly. Almost as soon as it was morning, the
people at the Mains could begin doing a little towards restoration.
But from that day forth, for about a year, instead of the waters of
the Daur and the Lorrie, the house was filled with the gradually
subsiding flood of Jean's lamentations over her house-gear -- one
thing after another, and twenty things together. There was scarcely
an article she did not, over and over, proclaim utterly ruined, in a
tone apparently indicating ground of serious complaint against some
one who did not appear, though most of the things, to other eyes
than hers, remained seemingly about as useful as before. In vain
her brother sought to comfort her with the assurance that there were
worse losses at Culloden; she answered, that if he had not himself
been specially favoured in the recovery of Snowball, he would have
made a much worse complaint about him alone than she did about all
her losses; whereupon, being an honest man, and not certain that she
spoke other than the truth, he held his peace. But he never made
the smallest acknowledgment to Gibbie for the saving of the said
Snowball: what could an idiot understand about gratitude? and what
use was money to a boy who did not set his life at a pin's fee? But
he always spoke kindly to him thereafter, which was more to Gibbie
than anything he could have given him; and when a man is content,
his friends may hold their peace.

The next day Jean had her dinner strangely provided. As her brother
wrote to a friend in Glasgow, she "found at the back of the house,
and all lying in a heap, a handsome dish of trout, a pike, a hare, a
partridge, and a turkey, with a dish of potatoes, and a dish of
turnips, all brought down by the burn, and deposited there for the
good of the house, except the turkey, which, alas! was one of her
own favourite flock."3

In the afternoon, Gibbie re-appeared at the Mains, and Robert and
Janet set out at once to go home with him. It was a long journey
for them -- he had to take them so many rounds. They rested at
several houses, and saw much misery on their way. It was night
before they arrived at the cottage. They found it warm and clean
and tidy: Ginevra had, like a true lady, swept the house that gave
her shelter: that ladies often do; and perhaps it is yet more their
work in the world than they fully understand. For Ginevra, it was
heavenly bliss to her to hear their approaching footsteps; and
before she left them she had thoroughly learned that the poorest
place where the atmosphere is love, is more homely, and by
consequence more heavenly, than the most beautiful even, where law
and order are elements supreme.

"Eh, gien I had only had faith an' bidden!" said Janet to herself as
she entered; and to the day of her death she never ceased to bemoan
her too hasty desertion of "the wee hoosie upo' the muckle rock."

As to the strange woman's evident knowledge concerning Gibbie, she
could do nothing but wait -- fearing rather than hoping; but she had
got so far above time and chance, that nothing really troubled her,
and she could wait quietly. At the same time it did not seem likely
they would hear anything more of the woman herself: no one believed
she could have gone very far without being whelmed, or whumled as
they said, in the fierce waters.



It may be remembered that, upon Gibbie's disappearance from the
city, great interest was felt in his fate, and such questions
started about the boy himself as moved the Rev. Clement Sclater to
gather all the information at which he could arrive concerning his
family and history. That done, he proceeded to attempt interesting
in his unknown fortunes those relatives of his mother whose
existence and residences he had discovered. In this, however, he
had met with no success. At the house where she was born, there was
now no one but a second cousin, to whom her brother, dying
unmarried, had left the small estate of the Withrops, along with the
family contempt for her husband, and for her because of him,
inasmuch as, by marrying him, she had brought disgrace upon herself,
and upon all her people. So said the cousin to Mr. Sclater, but
seemed himself nowise humbled by the disgrace he recognized, indeed
almost claimed. As to the orphan, he said, to speak honestly (as he
did at least that once), the more entirely he disappeared, the
better he would consider it -- not that personally he was the least
concerned in the matter; only if, according to the Scripture, there
were two more generations yet upon which had to be visited the sins
of Sir George and Lady Galbraith, the greater the obscurity in which
they remained, the less would be the scandal. The brother who had
taken to business, was the senior partner in a large ship-building
firm at Greenock. This man, William Fuller Withrop by name -- Wilful
Withrop the neighbours had nicknamed him -- was a bachelor, and
reputed rich. Mr. Sclater did not hear of him what roused very
brilliant hopes. He was one who would demand more reason than
reasonable for the most reasonable of actions that involved parting
with money; yet he had been known to do a liberal thing for a public
object. Waste was so wicked that any other moral risk was
preferable. Of the three, he would waste mind and body rather than
estate. Man was made neither to rejoice nor to mourn, but to
possess. To leave no stone unturned, however, Mr. Sclater wrote to
Mr. Withrop. The answer he received was, that, as the sister,
concerning whose child he had applied to him, had never been
anything but a trouble to the family; as he had no associations with
her memory save those of misery and disgrace; as, before he left
home, her name had long ceased to be mentioned among them; and as
her own father had deliberately and absolutely disowned her because
of her obstinate disobedience and wilfulness, it could hardly be
expected of him, and indeed would ill become him, to show any lively
interest in her offspring. Still, although he could not honestly
pretend to the smallest concern about him, he had, from pure
curiosity, made inquiry of correspondents with regard to the boy;
from which the resulting, knowledge was, that he was little better
than an idiot, whose character, education, and manners, had been
picked up in the streets. Nothing, he was satisfied, could be done
for such a child, which would not make him more miserable, as well
as more wicked, than he was already. Therefore, &c., &c., &c.

Thus failing, Mr. Sclater said to himself he had done all that could
be required of him -- and he had indeed taken trouble. Nor could
anything be asserted, he said further to himself, as his duty in
respect of this child, that was not equally his duty in respect of
every little wanderer in the streets of his parish. That a child's
ancestors had been favoured above others, and had so misused their
advantages that their last representative was left in abject
poverty, could hardly be a reason why that child, born, in more than
probability, with the same evil propensities which had ruined them,
should be made an elect object of favour. Who was he, Clement
Sclater, to intrude upon the divine prerogative, and presume to act
on the doctrine of election! Was a child with a Sir to his name,
anything more in the eyes of God than a child without a name at all?
Would any title -- even that of Earl or Duke, be recognized in the
kingdom of heaven? His relatives ought to do something: they
failing, of whom could further requisition be made? There were
vessels to honour and vessels to dishonour: to which class this one
belonged, let God in his time reveal. A duty could not be passed
on. It could not become the duty of the minister of a parish, just
because those who ought and could, would not, to spend time and
money, to the neglect of his calling, in hunting up a boy whom he
would not know what to do with if he had him, a boy whose home had
been with the dregs of society.

In justice to Mr. Sclater, it must be mentioned that he did not know
Gibbie, even by sight. There remains room, however, for the
question, whether, if Mr. Sclater had not been the man to change his
course as he did afterwards, he would not have acted differently
from the first.

One morning, as he sat at breakfast with his wife, late Mrs.
Bonniman, and cast, as is, I fear, the rude habit of not a few
husbands, not a few stolen glances, as he ate, over the morning
paper, his eye fell upon a paragraph announcing the sudden death of
the well-known William Fuller Withrop, of the eminent ship-building
firm of Withrop and Playtell, of Greenock. Until he came to the end
of the paragraph, his cup of coffee hung suspended in mid air. Then
down it went untasted, he jumped from his seat, and hurried from the
room. For the said paragraph ended with the remark, that the not
unfrequent incapacity of the ablest of business men for looking the
inevitable in the face with coolness sufficient to the making of a
will, was not only a curious fact, but in the individual case a
pity, where two hundred thousand pounds was concerned. Had the
writer been a little more philosophical still, he might have seen
that the faculty for making money by no means involves judgment in
the destination of it, and that the money may do its part for good
and evil without, just as well as with, a will at the back of it.

But though this was the occasion, it remains to ask what was the
cause of the minister's precipitancy. Why should Clement Sclater
thereupon spring from his chair in such a state of excitement that
he set his cup of coffee down upon its side instead of its bottom,
to the detriment of the tablecloth, and of something besides, more
unquestionably the personal property of his wife? Why was it that,
heedless of her questions, backed although they were both by just
anger and lawful curiosity, he ran straight from the room and the
house, nor stayed until, at one and the same moment, his foot was on
the top step of his lawyer's door, and his hand upon its bell? No
doubt it was somebody's business, and perhaps it might be Mr.
Sclater's, to find the heirs of men who died intestate; but what
made it so indubitably, so emphatically, so individually, so
pressingly Mr. Sclater's, that he forgot breakfast, tablecloth,
wife, and sermon, all together, that he might see to this boy's
rights? Surely if they were rights, they could be in no such
imminent danger as this haste seemed to signify. Was it only that
he might be the first in the race to right him? -- and if so, then
again, why? Was it a certainty indisputable, that any boy, whether
such an idle tramp as the minister supposed this one to be or not,
would be redeemed by the heirship to the hugest of fortunes? Had
it, some time before this, become at length easier for a rich boy to
enter into the kingdom of heaven? Or was it that, with all his
honesty, all his religion, all his churchism, all his protestantism,
and his habitual appeal to the word of God, the minister was yet a
most reverential worshipper of Mammon, -- not the old god mentioned in
the New Testament, of course, but a thoroughly respectable modern
Mammon, decently dressed, perusing a subscription list! No doubt
justice ought to be done, and the young man over at Roughrigs was
sure to be putting in a false claim, but where were the lawyers,
whose business it was? There was no need of a clergyman to remind
them of their duty where the picking of such a carcase was
concerned. Had Mr. Sclater ever conceived the smallest admiration
or love for the boy, I would not have made these reflections; but,
in his ignorance of him and indifference concerning him, he believed
there would at least be trouble in proving him of approximately
sound mind and decent intellect. What, then, I repeat and leave it,
did all this excitement on the part of one of the iron pillars of
the church indicate?

From his lawyer he would have gone at once to Mistress
Croale -- indeed I think he would have gone to her first, to warn her
against imparting what information concerning Gibbie she might
possess to any other than himself, but he had not an idea where she
might even be heard of. He had cleansed his own parish, as he
thought, by pulling up the tare, contrary to commandment, and
throwing it into his neighbours, where it had taken root, and grown
a worse tare than before; until at length, she who had been so
careful over the manners and morals of her drunkards, was a drunkard
herself and a wanderer, with the reputation of being a far worse
woman than she really was. For some years now she had made her
living, one poor enough, by hawking small household necessities; and
not unfrequently where she appeared, the housewives bought of her
because her eyes, and her nose, and an undefined sense of evil in
her presence, made them shrink from the danger of offending her.
But the real cause of the bad impression she made was, that she was
sorely troubled with what is, by huge discourtesy, called a bad
conscience -- being in reality a conscience doing its duty so well
that it makes the whole house uncomfortable.

On her next return to the Daurfoot, as the part of the city was
called where now she was most at home, she heard the astounding and
welcome news that Gibbie had fallen heir to a large property, and
that the reward of one hundred pounds -- a modest sum indeed, but
where was the good of wasting money, thought Mr. Sclater -- had been
proclaimed by tuck of drum, to any one giving such information as
should lead to the discovery of Sir Gilbert Galbraith, commonly
known as wee Sir Gibbie. A description of him was added, and the
stray was so kenspeckle, that Mistress Croale saw the necessity of
haste to any hope of advantage. She had nothing to guide her beyond
the fact of Sir George's habit, in his cups, of referring to the
property on Daurside, and the assurance that with the said habit
Gibbie must have been as familiar as herself. With this initiative,
as she must begin somewhere, and could prosecute her business
anywhere, she filled her basket and set out at once for Daurside.
There, after a good deal of wandering hither and thither, and a
search whose fruitlessness she probably owed to too great caution,
she made the desired discovery unexpectedly and marvellously, and
left behind her in the valley the reputation of having been on more
familiar terms with the flood and the causes of it, than was
possible to any but one who kept company worse than human.



The next morning, Janet felt herself in duty bound to make inquiry
concerning those interested in Miss Galbraith. She made, therefore,
the best of her way with Gibbie to the Muckle Hoose, but, as the
latter expected, found it a ruin in a wilderness. Acres of trees
and shrubbery had disappeared, and a hollow waste of sand and gravel
was in their place. What was left of the house stood on the edge of
a red gravelly precipice of fifty feet in height, at whose foot lay
the stones of the kitchen-wing, in which had been the room whence
Gibbie carried Ginevra. The newer part of the house was gone from
its very roots; the ancient portion, all innovation wiped from it,
stood grim, desolated, marred, and defiant as of old. Not a sign of
life was about the place; the very birds had fled. Angus had been
there that same morning, and had locked or nailed up every possible
entrance: the place looked like a ruin of centuries. With
difficulty they got down into the gulf, with more difficulty crossed
the burn, clambered up the rocky bank on the opposite side, and
knocked at the door of the gamekeeper's cottage. But they saw only
a little girl, who told them her father had gone to find the laird,
that her mother was ill in bed, and Mistress Mac Farlane on her way
to her own people.

It came out afterwards that when Angus and the housekeeper heard
Gibbie's taps at the window, and, looking out, saw nobody there, but
the burn within a few yards of the house, they took the warning for
a supernatural interference to the preservation of their lives, and
fled at once. Passing the foot of the stair, Mistress Mac Farlane
shrieked to Ginevra to come, but ran on without waiting a reply.
They told afterwards that she left the house with them, and that,
suddenly missing her, they went back to look for her, but could find
her nowhere, and were just able to make their second escape with
their lives, hearing the house fall into the burn behind them.
Mistress Mac Farlane had been severe as the law itself against
lying among the maids, but now, when it came to her own defence
where she knew her self wrong, she lied just like one of the wicked.

"My dear missie," said Janet, when they got home, "ye maun write to
yer father, or he'll be oot o' 's wuts aboot ye."

Ginevra wrote therefore to the duke's, and to the laird's usual
address in London as well; but he was on his way from the one place
to the other when Angus overtook him, and received neither letter.

Now came to the girl a few such days of delight, of freedom, of
life, as she had never even dreamed of. She roamed Glashgar with
Gibbie, the gentlest, kindest, most interesting of companions.
Wherever his sheep went, she went too, and to many places
besides -- some of them such strange, wild, terrible places, as would
have terrified her without him. How he startled her once by darting
off a rock like a seagull, straight, head-foremost, into the
Death-pot! She screamed with horror, but he had done it only to
amuse her; for, after what seemed to her a fearful time, he came
smiling up out of the terrible darkness. What a brave, beautiful
boy he was! He never hurt anything, and nothing ever seemed to hurt
him. And what a number of things he knew! He showed her things on
the mountain, things in the sky, things in the pools and streams
wherever they went. He did better than tell her about them; he made
her see them, and then the things themselves told her. She was not
always certain she saw just what he wanted her to see, but she
always saw something that made her glad with knowledge. He had a
New Testament Janet had given him, which he carried in his pocket,
and when she joined him, for he was always out with his sheep hours
before she was up, she would generally find him seated on a stone,
or lying in the heather, with the little book in his hand, looking
solemn and sweet. But the moment he saw her, he would spring
merrily up to welcome her. It were indeed an argument against
religion as strong as sad, if one of the children the kingdom
specially claims, could not be possessed by the life of the Son of
God without losing his simplicity and joyousness. Those of my
readers will be the least inclined to doubt the boy, who, by
obedience, have come to know its reward. For obedience alone holds
wide the door for the entrance of the spirit of wisdom. There was
as little to wonder at in Gibbie as there was much to love and
admire, for from the moment when, yet a mere child, he heard there
was such a one claiming his obedience, he began to turn to him the
hearing ear, the willing heart, the ready hand. The main thing
which rendered this devotion more easy and natural to him than to
others was, that, more than in most, the love of man had in him
prepared the way of the Lord. He who so loved the sons of men was
ready to love the Son of Man the moment he heard of him; love makes
obedience a joy; and of him who obeys all heaven is the
patrimony -- he is fellow-heir with Christ.

On the fourth day, the rain, which had been coming and going,
finally cleared off, the sun was again glorious, and the farmers
began to hope a little for the drying and ripening of some portion
of their crops. Then first Ginevra asked Gibbie to take her down to
Glashruach; she wanted to see the ruin they had described to her.
When she came near, and notions changed into visible facts, she
neither wept nor wailed. She felt very miserable, it is true, but
it was at finding that the evident impossibility of returning
thither for a long time, woke in her pleasure and not pain. So
utterly altered was the look of everything, that had she come upon
it unexpectedly, she would not have recognized either place or
house. They went up to a door. She seemed never to have seen it;
but when they entered, she knew it as one from the hall into a
passage, which, with what it led to, being gone, the inner had
become an outer door. A quantity of sand was heaped up in the hall,
and the wainscot was wet and swelled and bulging. They went into
the dining-room. It was a miserable sight -- the very picture of the
soul of a drunkard. The thick carpet was sodden -- spongy like a bed
of moss after heavy rains; the leather chairs looked diseased; the
colour was all gone from the table; the paper hung loose from the
walls; and everything lay where the water, after floating it about,
had let it drop as it ebbed.

She ascended the old stone stair which led to her father's rooms
above, went into his study, in which not a hair was out of its
place, and walked towards the window to look across to where once
had been her own chamber. But as she approached it, there, behind
the curtain, she saw her father, motionless, looking out. She
turned pale, and stood. Even at such a time, had she known he was
in the house, she would not have dared set her foot in that room.
Gibbie, who had followed and entered behind her, preceived her
hesitation, saw and recognized the back of the laird, knew that she
was afraid of her father, and stood also waiting he know not what.

"Eh!" he said to himself, "hers is no like mine! Nae mony has had
fathers sae guid's mine."

Becoming aware of a presence, the laird half turned, and seeing
Gibbie, imagined he had entered in a prowling way, supposing the
place deserted. With stately offence he asked him what he wanted
there, and waved his dismissal. Then first he saw another, standing
white-faced, with eyes fixed upon him. He turned pale also, and
stood staring at her. The memory of that moment ever after
disgraced him in his own eyes: for one instant of unreasoning
weakness, he imagined he saw a ghost -- believed what he said he knew
to be impossible. It was but one moment but it might have been
more, had not Ginevra walked slowly up to him, saying in a trembling
voice, as if she expected the blame of all that had happened, "I
couldn't help it, papa." He took her in his arms, and, for the
first time since the discovery of her atrocious familiarity with
Donal, kissed her. She clung to him, trembling now with pleasure as
well as apprehension. But, alas! there was no impiety in the
faithlessness that pronounced such a joy too good to endure, and the
end came yet sooner than she feared. For, when the father rose
erect from her embrace, and was again the laird, there, to his
amazement, still stood the odd-looking, outlandish intruder, smiling
with the most impertinent interest! Gibbie had forgotten himself
altogether, beholding what he took for a thorough reconciliation.

"Go away, boy. You have nothing to do here," said the laird, anger
almost overwhelming his precious dignity.

"Oh, papa!" cried Ginevra, clasping her hands, "that's Gibbie! He
saved my life. I should have been drowned but for him."

The laird was both proud and stupid, therefore more than ordinarily
slow to understand what he was unprepared to hear.

"I am much obliged to him," he said haughtily; "but there is no
occasion for him to wait."

At this point his sluggish mind began to recall something: -- why,
this was the very boy he saw in the meadow with her that
morning! -- He turned fiercely upon him where he lingered, either
hoping for a word of adieu from Ginevra, or unwilling to go while
she was uncomfortable.

"Leave the house instantly," he said, "or I will knock you down."

"O papa!" moaned Ginevra wildly -- it was the braver of her that she
was trembling from head to foot -- "don't speak so to Gibbie. He is a
good boy. It was he that Angus whipped so cruelly -- long ago: I have
never been able to forget it."

Her father was confounded at her presumption: how dared she
expostulate with him! She had grown a bold, bad girl! Good
heavens! Evil communications!

"If he does not get out of this directly," he cried, "I will have
him whipped again. Angus."

He shouted the name, and its echo came back in a wild tone,
altogether strange to Ginevra. She seemed struggling in the meshes
of an evil dream. Involuntarily she uttered a cry of terror and
distress. Gibbie was at her side instantly, putting out his hand to
comfort her. She was just laying hers on his arm, scarcely knowing
what she did, when her father seized him, and dashed him to the
other side of the room. He went staggering backwards, vainly trying
to recover himself, and fell, his head striking against the wall.
The same instant Angus entered, saw nothing of Gibbie where he lay,
and approached his master. But when he caught sight of Ginevra, he
gave a gasp of terror that ended in a broken yell, and stared as if
he had come suddenly on the verge of the bottomless pit, while all
round his head his hair stood out as if he had been electrified.
Before he came to himself, Gibbie had recovered and risen. He saw
now that he could be of no service to Ginevra, and that his presence
only made things worse for her. But he saw also that she was
unhappy about him, and that must not be. He broke into such a merry
laugh -- and it had need to be merry, for it had to do the work of
many words of reassurance -- that she could scarcely refrain from a
half-hysterical response as he walked from the room. The moment he
was out of the house, he began to sing; and for many minutes, as he
walked up the gulf hollowed by the Glashburn, Ginevra could hear the
strange, other-world voice, and knew it was meant to hold communion
with her and comfort her.

"What do you know of that fellow, Angus!" asked his master.

"He's the verra deevil himsel', sir," muttered Angus, whom Gibbie's
laughter had in a measure brought to his senses.

"You will see that he is sent off the property at once -- and for
good, Angus," said the laird. "His insolence is insufferable. The

On the pretext of following Gibbie, Angus was only too glad to leave
the room. Then Mr. Galbraith upon his daughter.

"So, Jenny!" he said, with, his loose lips pulled out straight,
"that is the sort of companion you choose when left to yourself! -- a
low, beggarly, insolent scamp! -- scarcely the equal of the brutes he
has the charge of!"

"They're sheep, papa!" pleaded Ginevra, in a wail that rose almost
to a scream.

"I do believe the girl is an idiot!" said her father, and turned
from her contemptuously.

"I think I am, papa," she sobbed. "Don't mind me. Let me go away,
and I will never trouble you any more." She would go to the
mountain, she thought, and be a shepherdess with Gibbie.

Her father took her roughly by the arm, pushed her into a closet,
locked the door, went and had his luncheon, and in the afternoon,
having borrowed Snowball, took her just as she was, drove to meet
the mail coach, and in the middle of the night was set down with her
at the principal hotel in the city, whence the next morning he set
out early to find a school where he might leave her and his
responsibility with her.

When Gibbie knew himself beyond the hearing of Ginevra, his song
died away, and he went home sad. The gentle girl had stepped at
once from the day into the dark, and he was troubled for her. But
he remembered that she had another father besides the laird, and
comforted himself.

When he reached home, he found his mother in serious talk with a
stranger. The tears were in her eyes, and had been running down her
cheeks, but she was calm and dignified as usual.

"Here he comes!" she said as he entered. "The will o' the Lord be
dene -- noo an' for ever-mair! I'm at his biddin'. -- An' sae's

It was Mr. Sclater. The witch had sailed her brander well.



One bright afternoon, towards the close of the autumn, the sun
shining straight down one of the wide clean stony streets of the
city, with a warmth which he had not been able to impart to the air,
a company of school-girls, two and two in long file, mostly with
innocent, and, for human beings, rather uninteresting faces, was
walking in orderly manner, a female grenadier at its head, along the
pavement, more than usually composed, from having the sun in their
eyes. Amongst the faces was one very different from the rest, a
countenance almost solemn and a little sad, of still, regular
features, in the eyes of which by loving eyes might have been read
uneasy thought patiently carried, and the lack of some essential to
conscious well-being. The other girls were looking on this side and
that, eager to catch sight of anything to trouble the monotony of
the daily walk; but the eyes of this one were cast down, except when
occasionally lifted in answer to words of the schoolmistress, the
grenadier, by whose side she was walking. They were lovely brown
eyes, trustful and sweet, and although, as I have said, a little
sad, they never rose, even in reply to the commonest remark, without
shining a little. Though younger than not a few of them, and very
plainly dressed, like all the others -- I have a suspicion that Scotch
mothers dress their girls rather too plainly, which tends to the
growth of an undue and degrading love of dress -- she was not so
girlish, was indeed, in some respects, more of a young woman than
even the governess who walked by the side of them.

Suddenly came a rush, a confusion, a fluttering of the doves, whence
or how none seemed to know, a gentle shriek from several of the
girls, a general sense of question and no answer; but, as their
ruffled nerves composed themselves a little, there was the vision of
the schoolmistress poking the point of her parasol at a heedless
face, radiant with smiles, that of an odd-looking lad, as they
thought, who had got hold of one of the daintily gloved hands of her
companion, laid a hand which, considered conventionally, was not
that of a gentleman, upon her shoulder, and stood, without a word,
gazing in rapturous delight.

"Go away, boy! What do you mean by such impertinence?" cried the
outraged Miss Kimble, changing her thrust, and poking in his chest
the parasol with which she had found it impossible actually to
assail his smiling countenance. -- Such a strange looking creature!
He could not be in his sound senses, she thought. In the momentary
mean time, however, she had failed to observe that, after the first
start and following tremor, her companion stood quite still, and was
now looking in the lad's face with roseate cheeks and tear-filled
eyes, apparently forgetting to draw her hand from his, or to move
her shoulder from under his caress. The next moment, up, with hasty
yet dignified step, came the familiar form of their own minister,
the Rev. Clement Sclater, who, with reproof in his countenance,
which was red with annoyance and haste, laid his hands on the lad's
shoulders to draw him from the prey on which he had pounced.

"Remember, you are not on a hill-side, but in a respectable street,"
said the reverend gentleman, a little foolishly.

The youth turned his head over his shoulder, not otherwise changing
his attitude, and looked at him with some bewilderment. Then, not
he, but the young lady spoke.

"Gibbie and I are old friends," she said, and reaching up laid her
free hand in turn on his shoulder, as if to protect him -- for,
needlessly, with such grace and strength before her, the vision of
an old horror came rushing back on the mind of Ginevra.

Gibbie had darted from his companion's side some hundred yards off.
The cap which Mr. Sclater had insisted on his wearing had fallen as
he ran, and he had never missed it; his hair stood out on all sides
of his head, and the sun behind him shone in it like a glory, just
as when first he appeared to Ginevra in the peat-moss, like an angel
standing over her. Indeed, while to Miss Kimble and the girls he
was "a mad-like object" in his awkward ill-fitting clothes, made by
a village tailor in the height of the village fashion, to Ginevra he
looked hardly less angelic now than he did then. His appearance,
judged without prejudice, was rather that of a sailor boy on shore
than a shepherd boy from the hills.

"Miss Galbraith!" said Miss Kimble, in the tone that indicates
nostrils distended, "I am astonished at you! What an example to the
school! I never knew you misbehave yourself before! Take your hand
from this -- this -- very strange looking person's shoulder directly."

Ginevra obeyed, but Gibbie stood as before.

"Remove your hand, boy, instantly," cried Miss Kimble, growing more
and more angry, and began knocking the hand on the girl's shoulder
with her parasol, which apparently Gibbie took for a joke, for he
laughed aloud.

"Pray do not alarm yourself, ma'am," said Mr. Sclater, slowly
recovering his breath: he was not yet quite sure of Gibbie, or
confident how best he was to be managed; "this young -- gentleman is
Sir Gilbert Galbraith, my ward. -- Sir Gilbert, this lady is Miss
Kimble. You must have known her father well -- the Rev. Matthew
Kimble of the next parish to your own?"

Gibbie smiled. He did not nod, for that would have meant that he
did know him, and he did not remember having ever even heard the
name of the Rev. Matthew Kimble.

"Oh!" said the lady, who had ceased her battery, and stood
bewildered and embarrassed -- the more that by this time the girls had
all gathered round, staring and wondering.

Ginevra's eyes too had filled with wonder; she cast them down, and a
strange smile began to play about her sweet strong mouth. All at
once she was in the middle of a fairy tale, and had not a notion
what was coming next. Her dumb shepherd boy a baronet! -- and, more
wonderful still, a Galbraith! She must be dreaming in the wide
street! The last she had seen of him was as he was driven from the
house by her father, when he had just saved her life. That was but
a few weeks ago, and here he was, called Sir Gilbert Galbraith! It
was a delicious bit of wonderment.

"Oh!" said Miss Kimble a second time, recovering herself a little,
"I see! A relative, Miss Galbraith! I did not understand. That of
course sets everything right -- at least -- even then -- the open street,
you know! -- You will understand, Mr. Sclater. -- I beg your pardon, Sir
Gilbert. I hope I did not hurt you with my parasol!"

Gibbie again laughed aloud.

"Thank you," said Miss Kimble confused, and annoyed with herself for
being so, especially before her girls. "I should be sorry to have
hurt you. -- Going to college, I presume, Sir Gilbert?"

Gibbie looked at Mr. Sclater.

"He is going to study with me for a while first," answered the

"I am glad to hear it, He could not do better," said Miss Kimble.
"Come, girls."

And with friendly farewells, she moved on, her train after her,
thinking with herself what a boor the young fellow was -- the
young -- baronet? -- Yes, he must be a baronet; he was too young to have
been knighted already. But where ever could he have been brought

Mr. Sclater had behaved judiciously, and taken gentle pains to
satisfy the old couple that they must part with Gibbie. One of the
neighbouring clergy knew Mr. Sclater well, and with him paid the old
people a visit, to help them to dismiss any lingering doubt that he
was the boy's guardian legally appointed. To their own common sense
indeed it became plain that, except some such story was true, there
could be nothing to induce him to come after Gibbie, or desire to
take charge of the outcast; but they did not feel thoroughly
satisfied until Mr. Sclater brought Fergus Duff to the cottage, to
testify to him as being what he pretended. It was a sore trial, but
amongst the griefs of losing him, no fear of his forgetting them was
included. Mr. Sclater's main difficulty was with Gibbie himself.
At first he laughed at the absurdity of his going away from his
father and mother and the sheep. They told him he was Sir Gilbert
Galbraith. He answered on his slate, as well as by signs which
Janet at least understood perfectly, that he had told them so, and
had been so all the time, "and what differ dos that mak?" he added.
Mr. Sclater told him he was -- or would be, at least, he took care to
add, when he came of age -- a rich man as well as a baronet.

"Writch men," wrote Gibbie, "dee as they like, and Ise bide."

Mr. Sclater told him it was only poor boys who could do as they
pleased, for the law looked after boys like him, so that, when it
came into their hands, they might be capable of using their money
properly. Almost persuaded at length that he had no choice, that he
could no longer be his own master, until he was one and twenty, he
turned and looked at Janet, his eyes brimful of tears. She gave him
a little nod. He rose and went out, climbed the crest of Glashgar,
and did not return to the cottage till midnight.

In the morning appeared on his countenance signs of unusual resolve.
Amid the many thoughts he had had the night before, had come the
question -- what he would do with the money when he had it -- first of
all what he could do for Janet and Robert and everyone of their
family; and naturally enough to a Scotch boy, the first thing that
occurred to him was, to give Donal money to go to college like
Fergus Duff. In that he know he made no mistake. It was not so easy
to think of things for the rest, but that was safe. Had not Donal
said twenty times he would not mind being a herd all his life, if
only he could go to college first? But then he began to think what
a long time it was before he would be one and twenty, and what a
number of things might come and go before then: Donal might by that
time have a wife and children, and he could not leave them to go to
college! Why should not Mr. Sclater manage somehow that Donal
should go at once? It was now the end almost of October, and the
college opened in November. Some other rich person would lend them
the money, and he would pay it, with compound interest, when he got
his. Before he went to bed, he got his slate, and wrote as follows:

"my dear minister, If you will teak Donal too, and lett him go to
the kolledg, I will go with you as seens ye like; butt if ye will
not, I will runn away."

When Mr. Sclater, who had a bed at the gamekeeper's, appeared the
next morning, anxious to conclude the business, and get things in
motion for their departure, Gibbie handed him the slate the moment
he entered the cottage, and while he read, stood watching him.

Now Mr. Sclater was a prudent man, and always looked ahead,
therefore apparently took a long time to read Gibbie's very clear,
although unscholarly communication; before answering it, he must
settle the probability of what Mrs. Sclater would think of the
proposal to take two savages into her house together, where also
doubtless the presence of this Donal would greatly interfere with
the process of making a gentleman of Gibbie. Unable to satisfy
himself, he raised his head at length, unconsciously shaking it as
he did so. That instant Gibbie was out of the house. Mr. Sclater,
perceiving the blunder he had made, hurried after him, but he was
already out of sight. Returning in some dismay, he handed the slate
to Janet, who, with sad, resigned countenance, was baking. She
rubbed the oatmeal dough from her hands, took the slate, and read
with a smile.

"Ye maunna tak Gibbie for a young cowt, Maister Sclater, an' think
to brak him in," she said, after a thoughtful pause, "or ye'll hae
to learn yer mistak. There's no eneuch o' himsel' in him for ye to
get a grip o' 'm by that han'le. He aye kens what he wad hae, an'
he'll aye get it, as sure's it'll aye be richt. As anent Donal,
Donal's my ain, an' I s' say naething. Sit ye doon, sir; ye'll no
see Gibbie the day again."

"Is there no means of getting at him, my good woman?" said Mr.
Sclater, miserable at the prospect of a day utterly wasted.

"I cud gie ye sicht o' 'im, I daursay, but what better wad ye be for
that? Gien ye hed a' the lawyers o' Embrough at yer back, ye wadna
touch Gibbie upo' Glashgar."

"But you could persuade him, I am sure, Mistress Grant. You have
only to call him in your own way, and he will come at once."

"What wad ye hae me perswaud him till, sir? To onything 'at's
richt, Gibbie wants nae perswaudin'; an' for this 'at's atween ye,
the laddies are jist verra brithers, an' I hae no richt to interfere
wi' what the tane wad for the tither, the thing seemin' to me rizon

"What sort of lad is this son of yours? The boy seems much attached
to him!"

"He's a laddie 'at's been gien ower till's buik sin' ever I learnt
him to read mysel'," Janet answered. "But he'll be here the nicht,
I'm thinkin', to see the last o' puir Gibbie, an' ye can jeedge for

It required but a brief examination of Donal to satisfy Mr. Sclater
that he was more than prepared for the university. But I fear me
greatly the time is at hand when such as Donal will no more be able
to enter her courts. Unwise and unpatriotic are any who would
rather have a few prime scholars sitting about the wells of
learning, than see those fountains flow freely for the poor, who are
yet the strength of a country. It is better to have many upon the
high road of learning, than a few even at its goal, if that were

As to Donal's going to Mr. Sclater's house, Janet soon relieved him.

"Na, na, sir," she said; "it wad be to learn w'ys 'at wadna be
fittin' a puir lad like him."

"It would be much safer for him." said Mr. Sclater, but

"Gien I cudna lippen my Donal till's ain company an' the hunger for
better, I wad begin to doobt wha made the warl'," said his mother;
and Donal's face flushed with pleasure at her confidence. "Na, he
maun get a garret roomie some gait i' the toon, an' there haud
till's buik; an ye'll lat Gibbie gang an' see him whiles whan he can
be spared. There maun be many a dacent wuman 'at wad be pleased to
tak him in."

Mr. Sclater seemed to himself to foresee no little trouble in his
new responsibility, but consoled himself that he would have more
money at his command, and in the end would sit, as it were, at the
fountain-head of large wealth. Already, with his wife's property,
he was a man of consideration; but he had a great respect for money,
and much overrated its value as a means of doing even what he called
good: religious people generally do -- with a most unchristian
dulness. We are not told that the Master made the smallest use of
money for his end. When he paid the temple-rate, he did it to avoid
giving offence; and he defended the woman who divinely wasted it.
Ten times more grace and magnanimity would be needed, wisely and
lovingly to avoid making a fortune, than it takes to spend one for
what are called good objects when it is made.

When they met Miss Kimble and her "young ladies," they were on their
way from the coach-office to the minister's house in Daur Street.
Gibbie knew every corner, and strange was the swift variety of
thoughts and sensations that went filing through his mind. Up this
same street he had tended the wavering steps of a well-known if not
highly respected town-councillor! that was the door, where, one cold
morning of winter, the cook gave him a cup of hot coffee and a roll!
What happy days they were, with their hunger and adventure! There
had always been food and warmth about the city, and he had come in
for his share! The Master was in its streets as certainly as on the
rocks of Glashgar. Not one sheep did he lose sight of, though he
could not do so much for those that would not follow, and had to
have the dog sent after them!



Gibbie was in a dream of mingled past and future delights, when his
conductor stopped at a large and important-looking house, with a
flight of granite steps up to the door. Gibbie had never been
inside such a house in his life, but when they entered, he was not
much impressed. He did look with a little surprise, it is true, but
it was down, not up: he felt his feet walking soft, and wondered for
a moment that there should be a field of grass in a house. Then he
gave a glance round, thought it was a big place, and followed Mr.
Sclater up the stair with the free mounting step of the Glashgar
shepherd. Forgetful and unconscious, he walked into the
drawing-room with his bonnet on his head. Mrs. Sclater rose when
they entered, and he approached her with a smile of welcome to the
house which he carried, always full of guests, in his bosom. He
never thought of looking to her to welcome him. She shook hands
with him in a doubtful kind of way.

"How do you do, Sir Gilbert?" she said. "Only ladies are allowed to
wear their caps in the drawing-room, you know," she added, in a tone
of courteous and half-rallying rebuke, speaking from a flowery
height of conscious superiority.

What she meant by the drawing-room, Gibbie had not an idea. He
looked at her head, and saw no cap; she had nothing upon it but a
quantity of beautiful black hair; then suddenly remembered his
bonnet; he knew well enough bonnets had to be taken off in house or
cottage: he had never done so because he never had worn a bonnet.
But it was with a smile of amusement only that he now took it off.
He was so free from selfishness that he knew nothing of shame.
Never a shadow of blush at his bad manners tinged his cheek. He
put the cap in his pocket, and catching sight of a footstool by the
corner of the chimney-piece, was so strongly reminded of his creepie
by the cottage-hearth, which, big lad as he now was, he had still
haunted, that he went at once and seated himself upon it. From this
coign of vantage he looked round the room with a gentle curiosity,
casting a glance of pleasure every now and then at Mrs. Sclater, to
whom her husband, in a manner somewhat constrained because of his
presence, was recounting some of the incidents of his journey,
making choice, after the manner of many, of the most commonplace and

Gibbie had not been educated in the relative grandeur of things of
this world, and he regarded the things he now saw just as things,
without the smallest notion of any power in them to confer
superiority by being possessed: can a slave knight his master? The
reverend but poor Mr. Sclater was not above the foolish
consciousness of importance accruing from the refined adjuncts of a
more needy corporeal existence; his wife would have felt out of her
proper sphere had she ceased to see them around her, and would have
lost some of her aplomb; but the divine idiot Gibbie was incapable
even of the notion that they mattered a straw to the life of any
man. Indeed, to compare man with man was no habit of his; hence it
cannot be wonderful that stone hearth and steel grate, clay floor
and Brussels carpet were much the same to him. Man was the one
sacred thing. Gibbie's unconscious creed was a powerful leveller,
but it was a leveller up, not down. The heart that revered the
beggar could afford to be incapable of homage to position. His was
not one of those contemptible natures which have no reverence
because they have no aspiration, which think themselves fine because
they acknowledge nothing superior to their own essential baseness.
To Gibbie every man was better than himself. It was for him a
sudden and strange descent -- from the region of poetry and closest
intercourse with the strong and gracious and vital simplicities of
Nature, human and other, to the rich commonplaces, amongst them not
a few fashionable vulgarities, of an ordinary well-appointed house,
and ordinary well-appointed people; but, however bedizened, humanity
was there; and he who does not love human more than any other nature
has not life in himself, does not carry his poetry in him, as Gibbie
did, therefore cannot find it except where it has been shown to him.
Neither was a common house like this by any means devoid of any
things to please him. If there was not the lovely homeliness of the
cottage which at once gave all it had, there was a certain
stateliness which afforded its own reception; if there was little
harmony, there were individual colours that afforded him delight -- as
for instance, afterwards, the crimson covering the walls of the
dining-room, whose colour was of that soft deep-penetrable character
which a flock paper alone can carry. Then there were pictures, bad
enough most of them, no doubt, in the eyes of the critic, but
endlessly suggestive, therefore endlessly delightful to Gibbie. It
is not the man who knows most about Nature that is hardest to
please, however he may be hardest to satisfy, with the attempt to
follow her. The accomplished poet will derive pleasure from verses
which are a mockery to the soul of the unhappy mortal whose business
is judgment -- the most thankless of all labours, and justly so.
Certain fruits one is unable to like until he has eaten them in
their perfection; after that, the reminder in them of the perfect
will enable him to enjoy even the inferior a little, recognizing
their kind -- always provided he be not one given to judgment -- a
connoisseur, that is, one who cares less for the truth than for the
knowing comparison of one embodiment of it with another. Gibbie's
regard then, as it wandered round the room, lighting on this colour,
and that texture, in curtain, or carpet, or worked screen, found
interest and pleasure. Amidst the mere upholstery of houses and
hearts, amidst the common life of the common crowd, he was, and had
to be, what he had learned to be amongst the nobility and in the
palace of Glashgar.

Mrs. Sclater, late Mrs. Bonniman, was the widow of a merchant who
had made his money in foreign trade, and to her house Mr. Sclater
had flitted when he married her. She was a well-bred woman, much
the superior of her second husband in the small duties and graces of
social life, and, already a sufferer in some of his not very serious
grossiŠret‚s, regarded with no small apprehension the arrival of one
in whom she expected the same kind of thing in largely exaggerated
degree. She did not much care to play the mother to a bear cub, she
said to her friends, with a good-humoured laugh. "Just think," she
added, "with such a childhood as the poor boy had, what a mass of
vulgarity must be lying in that uncultivated brain of his! It is no
small mercy, as Mr. Sclater says, that our ears at least are safe.
Poor boy!" -- She was a woman of about forty, rather tall, of good
complexion tending to the ruddy, with black smooth shining hair
parted over a white forehead, black eyes, nose a little aquiline,
good mouth, and fine white teeth -- altogether a handsome woman -- some
notion of whose style may be gathered from the fact that, upon the
testimony of her cheval glass, she preferred satin to the richest of
silks, and almost always wore it. Now and then she would attempt a
change, but was always defeated and driven back into satin. She was
precise in her personal rules, but not stiff in the manners wherein
she embodied them: these were indeed just a little florid and wavy,
a trifle profuse in their grace. She kept an excellent table, and
every appointment about the house was in good style -- a favourite
phrase with her. She was her own housekeeper, an exact mistress,
but considerate, so that her servants had no bad time of it. She
was sensible, kind, always responsive to appeal, had scarcely a
thread of poetry or art in her upper texture, loved fair play, was
seldom in the wrong, and never confessed it when she was. But when
she saw it, she took some pains to avoid being so in a similar way
again. She held hard by her own opinion; was capable of a mild
admiration of truth and righteousness in another; had one or two pet
commandments to which she paid more attention than to the rest; was
a safe member of society, never carrying tales; was kind with
condescension to the poor, and altogether a good wife for a minister
of Mr. Sclater's sort. She knew how to hold her own with any who
would have established superiority. A little more coldness, pride,
indifference, and careless restraint, with just a touch of rudeness,
would have given her the freedom of the best society, if she could
have got into it. Altogether it would not have been easy to find
one who could do more for Gibbie in respect for the social rapports
that seemed to await him. Even some who would gladly themselves
have undertaken the task, admitted that he might have fallen into
much less qualified hands. Her husband was confident that, if
anybody could, his wife would make a gentleman of Sir Gilbert; and
he ought to know, for she had done a good deal of polishing upon

She was now seated on a low chair at the other side of the fire,
leaning back at a large angle, slowly contemplating out of her black
eyes the lad on the footstool, whose blue eyes she saw wandering
about the room, in a manner neither vague nor unintelligent, but
showing more of interest than of either surprise or admiration.
Suddenly he turned them full upon her; they met hers, and the light
rushed into them like a torrent, breaking forth after its way in a
soulful smile. I hope my readers are not tired of the mention of
Gibbie's smiles: I can hardly avoid it; they were all Gibbie had for
the small coin of intercourse; and if my readers care to be just,
they will please to remember that they have been spared many a he
said and she said. Unhappily for me there is no way of giving the
delicate differences of those smiles. Much of what Gibbie perhaps
felt the more that he could not say it, had got into the place where
the smiles are made, and, like a variety of pollens, had impregnated
them with all shades and colours of expression, whose varied
significance those who had known him longest, dividing and
distinguishing, had gone far towards being able to interpret. In
that which now shone on Mrs. Sclater, there was something, she said
the next day to a friend, which no woman could resist, and which
must come of his gentle blood. If she could have seen a few of his
later ancestors at least, she would have doubted if they had
anything to do with that smile beyond its mere transmission from
"the first stock-father of gentleness." She responded, and from
that moment the lady and the shepherd lad were friends

Now that a real introduction had taken place between them, and in
her answering smile Gibbie had met the lady herself, he proceeded,
in most natural sequence, without the smallest shyness or suspicion
of rudeness, to make himself acquainted with the phenomena
presenting her. As he would have gazed upon a rainbow, trying
perhaps to distinguish the undistinguishable in the meeting and
parting of its colours, only that here behind was the all-powerful
love of his own, he began to examine the lady's face and form,
dwelling and contemplating with eyes innocent as any baby's. This
lasted; but did not last long before it began to produce in the lady
a certain uncertain embarrassment, a something she did not quite
understand, therefore could not account for, and did not like. Why
should she mind eyes such as those making acquaintance with what a
whole congregation might see any Sunday at church, or for that
matter, the whole city on Monday, if it pleased to look upon her as
she walked shopping in Pearl-street? Why indeed? Yet she began to
grow restless, and feel as if she wanted to let down her veil. She
could have risen and left the room, but she had "no notion" of being
thus put to flight by her bear-cub; she was ashamed that a woman of
her age and experience should be so foolish; and besides, she wanted
to come to an understanding with herself as to what herself meant by
it. She did not feel that the boy was rude; she was not angry with
him as with one taking a liberty; yet she did wish he would not look
at her like that; and presently she was relieved.

Her hands, which had been lying all the time in her lap, white upon
black, had at length drawn and fixed Gibbie's attention. They were
very lady-like hands, long-fingered, and with the orthodox long-oval
nails, each with a quarter segment of a pale rising moon at the
root -- hands nearly faultless, and, I suspect, considered by their
owner entirely such -- but a really faultless hand, who has ever
seen? -- To Gibbie's eyes they were such beautiful things, that, after
a moment or two spent in regarding them across the length of the
hairy hearthrug, he got up, took his footstool, crossed with it to
the other side of the fire, set it down by Mrs. Sclater, and
reseated himself. Without moving more than her fine neck, she
looked down on him curiously, wondering what would come next; and
what did come next was, that he laid one of his hands on one of
those that lay in the satin lap; then, struck with the contrast
between them, burst out laughing. But he neither withdrew his hand,
nor showed the least shame of the hard, brown, tarry-seamed, strong,
though rather small prehensile member, with its worn and blackened
nails, but let it calmly remain outspread, side by side with the
white, shapely, spotless, gracious and graceful thing, adorned, in
sign of the honour it possessed in being the hand of Mrs.
Sclater, -- it was her favourite hand, -- with a half hoop of fine
blue-green turkises, and a limpid activity of many diamonds. She
laughed also -- who could have helped it? that laugh would have set
silver bells ringing in responsive sympathy! -- and patted the lumpy
thing which, odd as the fact might be, was also called a hand, with
short little pecking pats; she did not altogether like touching so
painful a degeneracy from the ideal. But his very evident
admiration of hers, went far to reconcile her to his, -- as was but
right, seeing a man's admirations go farther to denote him truly,
than the sort of hands or feet either he may happen to have received
from this or that vanished ancestor. Still she found his
presence -- more than his proximity -- discomposing, and was glad when
Mr. Sclater, who, I forgot to mention, had left the room, returned
and took Gibbie away to show him his, and instruct him what changes
he must make upon his person in preparation for dinner.

When Mrs. Sclater went to bed that night she lay awake a good while
thinking, and her main thought was -- what could be the nature of the
peculiar feeling which the stare of the boy had roused in her? Nor
was it long before she began to suspect that, unlike her hand beside
his, she showed to some kind of disadvantage beside the shepherd
lad. Was it dissatisfaction then with herself that his look had
waked? She was aware of nothing in which she had failed or been in
the wrong of late. She never did anything to be called wrong -- by
herself, that is, or indeed by her neighbours. She had never done
anything very wrong, she thought; and anything wrong she had done,
was now a far away and so nearly forgotten, that it seemed to have
left her almost quite innocent; yet the look of those blue eyes,
searching, searching, without seeming to know it, made her feel
something like the discomfort of a dream of expected visitors, with
her house not quite in a condition to receive them. She must see to
her hidden house. She must take dust-pan and broom and go about a
little. For there are purifications in which king and cowboy must
each serve himself. The things that come out of a man are they that
defile him, and to get rid of them, a man must go into himself, be a
convict, and scrub the floor of his cell. Mrs. Sclater's cell was
very tidy and respectable for a cell, but no human consciousness can
be clean, until it lies wide open to the eternal sun, and the
all-potent wind; until, from a dim-lighted cellar it becomes a



Mrs. Sclater's first piece of business the following morning was to
take Gibbie to the most fashionable tailor in the city, and have him
measured for such clothes as she judged suitable for a gentleman's
son. As they went through the streets, going and returning, the
handsome lady walking with the youth in the queer country-made
clothes, attracted no little attention, and most of the inhabitants
who saw them, having by this time heard of the sudden importance of
their old acquaintance, wee Sir Gibbie, and the search after him,
were not long in divining the secret of the strange conjunction.
But although Gibbie seemed as much at home with the handsome lady
as if she had been his own mother, and walked by her side with a
step and air as free as the wind from Glashgar, he felt anything but
comfortable in his person. For here and there Tammy Breeks's seams
came too close to his skin, and there are certain kinds of hardship
which, though the sufferer be capable of the patience of Job, will
yet fret. Gibbie could endure cold or wet or hunger, and sing like
a mavis; he had borne pain upon occasion with at least complete
submission; but the tight arm-holes of his jacket could hardly be
such a decree of Providence as it was rebellion to interfere with;
and therefore I do not relate what follows, as a pure outcome of
that benevolence in him which was yet equal to the sacrifice of the
best fitting of garments. As they walked along Pearl-street, the
handsomest street of the city, he darted suddenly from Mrs.
Sclater's side, and crossed to the opposite pavement. She stood and
looked after him wondering, hitherto he had broken out in no
vagaries! As he ran, worse and worse! he began tugging at his
jacket, and had just succeeded in getting it off as he arrived at
the other side, in time to stop a lad of about his own size, who was
walking bare-footed and in his shirt sleeves -- if shirt or sleeves be
a term applicable to anything visible upon him. With something of
the air of the tailor who had just been waiting upon himself, but
with as much kindness and attention as if the boy had been Donal
Grant instead of a stranger, he held the jacket for him to put on.
The lad lost no time in obeying, gave him one look and nod of
gratitude, and ran down a flight of steps to a street below, never
doubting his benefactor an idiot, and dreading some one to whom he
belonged would be after him presently to reclaim the gift. Mrs.
Sclater saw the proceeding with some amusement and a little
foreboding. She did not mourn the fate of the jacket; had it been
the one she had just ordered, or anything like it, the loss would
have been to her not insignificant: but was the boy altogether in
his right mind? She in her black satin on the opposite pavement,
and the lad scudding down the stair in the jacket, were of similar
mind concerning the boy, who, in shirt sleeves indubitable, now came
bounding back across the wide street. He took his place by her side
as if nothing had happened, only that he went along swinging his
arms as if he had just been delivered from manacles. Having for so
many years roamed the streets with scarcely any clothes at all, he
had no idea of looking peculiar, and thought nothing more of the

But Mrs. Sclater soon began to find that even in regard to social
externals, she could never have had a readier pupil. He watched her
so closely, and with such an appreciation of the difference in
things of the kind between her and her husband, that for a short
period he was in danger of falling into habits of movement and
manipulation too dainty for a man, a fault happily none the less
objectionable in the eyes of his instructress, that she, on her own
part, carried the feminine a little beyond the limits of the
natural. But here also she found him so readily set right, that she
imagined she was going to do anything with him she pleased, and was
not a little proud of her conquest, and the power she had over the
young savage. She had yet to discover that Gibbie had his own ideas
too, that it was the general noble teachableness and affection of
his nature that had brought about so speedy an understanding between
them in everything wherein he saw she could show him the better way,
but that nowhere else would he feel bound or inclined to follow her
injunctions. Much and strongly as he was drawn to her by her
ladyhood, and the sense she gave him of refinement and familiarity
with the niceties, he had no feeling that she had authority over
him. So neglected in his childhood, so absolutely trusted by the
cottagers, who had never found in him the slightest occasion for the
exercise of authority, he had not an idea of owing obedience to any
but the One. Gifted from the first with a heart of devotion, the
will of the Master set the will of the boy upon the throne of
service, and what he had done from inclination he was now capable of
doing against it, and would most assuredly do against it if ever
occasion should arise: what other obedience was necessary to his
perfection? For his father and mother and Donal he had
reverence -- profound and tender, and for no one else as yet among
men; but at the same time something far beyond respect for every
human shape and show. He would not, could not make any of the
social distinctions which to Mr. and Mrs. Sclater seemed to belong
to existence itself, and their recognition essential to the living
of their lives; whence it naturally resulted that upon occasion he
seemed to them devoid of the first rudiments of breeding, without
respect or any notion of subordination.

Mr. Sclater was conscientious in his treatment of him. The very day
following that of their arrival, he set to work with him. He had
been a tutor, was a good scholar, and a sensible teacher, and soon
discovered how to make the most of Gibbie's facility in writing. He
was already possessed of a little Latin, and after having for some
time accustomed him to translate from each language into the other,
the minister began to think it might be of advantage to learning in
general, if at least half the boys and girls at school, and three
parts of every Sunday congregation, were as dumb as Sir Gilbert
Galbraith. When at length he set him to Greek, he was astonished at
the avidity with which he learned it! He had hardly got him over
tupto, {compilers note: spelled in Greek: Tau, Upsilon with stress,
Pi, Tau, Omega} when he found him one day so intent upon the
Greek Testament, that, exceptionally keen of hearing as he was, he
was quite unaware that anyone had entered the room.

What Gibbie made of Mr. Sclater's prayers, either in congregational
or family devotion, I am at some loss to imagine. Beside his
memories of the direct fervid outpouring and appeal of Janet, in
which she seemed to talk face to face with God, they must have
seemed to him like the utterances of some curiously constructed
wooden automaton, doing its best to pray, without any soul to be
saved, any weakness to be made strong, any doubt to be cleared, any
hunger to be filled. What can be less like religion than the
prayers of a man whose religion is his profession, and who, if he
were not "in the church," would probably never pray at all? Gibbie,
however, being the reverse of critical, must, I can hardly doubt,
have seen in them a good deal more than was there -- a pitiful faculty
to the man who cultivates that of seeing in everything less than is

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